FIRE INSPECTION FEE FAQs
- Why is there a fire inspection fee listed on my tax bill?
- Is there relevance in Wisconsin State Statute regarding the method of fee collection?
- What is the mandate for the Fire Department to conduct these inspections?
- How Many times are buildings under Wisconsin COMM 14 inspected?
- Who conducts these inspections?
- What are fire inspectors looking for when they inspect my building?
- Is the inspection fee a flat fee regardless of occupancy?
- What is the benefit to have my building inspected?
- How is the Bureau of Fire Prevention currently staffed?
1. Why is there a fire inspection fee listed on my tax bill?
The fire inspection fee was created by the City of Racine Common Council in an effort to fund a portion of the operating budget of the Bureau of Fire Prevention. The code relating to that fee will be in the Racine Municipal Code, Chapter 50-65 and 50-66. It should be noted that the inspection fee is for calendar year 2007.
2. Is there relevance in Wisconsin State Statute regarding the method of fee collection?
Yes. The fee was created citing Wisconsin Statute 66.601(16).
3. What is the mandate for the Fire Department to conduct these inspections?
Wisconsin Department of Commerce Chapter 14 is the State Fire Prevention Code. Within this code rests the mandated duty of the Fire Chief to inspect or cause to be inspected every commercial occupancy and every residential occupancy which is three family and greater. THat portion of COMM 14 reads as follows:
COMM 14.47 (2) Fire prevention inspections. (a) General. The chief of the fire department shall be responsible for having all public buildings and places of employment within the territory of the fire department inspected for purposes of ascertaining and causing to be corrected any conditions liable to cause fire, or any violation of any law or ordinance relating to fire hazards or to the prevention of fires.
In calendar year 2006, Racine Fire Department personnel conducted about 6,200 inspections in Racine.
4. How many times are buildings under Wisconsin COMM 14 inspected?
Most buildings are inspected twice yearly. COMM 14 states:
COMM 14.47.2 (c) Fire prevention inspections shall be conducted at least once in each non-overlapping 6 month period per calendar year, or more often if ordered by the fire chief of the department, in all territory served by the department.
5. Who conducts these inspections?
Racine firefighters are all trained to conduct basic fire inspections. These are done on an in-service schedule so they may respond to emergencies while out conducting inspections. Fire fighters conduct the inspection using a “target hazard” sheet created by the Bureau of Fire Prevention. They have the authority to effect compliance. Questions they have regarding a known violation, or a questionable issue found during inspection is referred to the Bureau of Fire Prevention. Bureau of Fire Prevention inspectors are trained to a higher standard and can interpret the fire code to a much greater degree. Once a Bureau of Fire Prevention inspector is involved, the inspection becomes theirs until an understanding of the code and/or compliance is complete. Bureau inspectors have the legal authority to issue citations for non compliance.
6. What are fire inspectors looking for when they inspect my building?
Fire inspectors seek to identify obvious fire hazards which increase the occurrences of fire. They also look for life safety issues within each occupancy. Some of these target hazards are:
- Exit Lights out
- Flammable liquids within buildings
- Aisles blocked
- Blocked egress doors
- Smoke detectors not working
- Fire alarms not operable
- Unauthorized building alterations
- Electrical Code Violations
- Extension cords
- Heating devices
- Flue venting to chimney
These issues as well as specific issues related to the occupancy are addressed during inspection.
7. Is the inspection fee a flat fee regardless of occupancy?
No. The fees were derived after reviewing similar fees in other Wisconsin communities. The Racine Bureau of Fire Prevention chose not to recommend a flat fee. They did so because the complexity of inspection is different by occupancy. Most of the points of interest on the inspection form are universal. Fire extinguisher, exit lights, aisle width, and combustible debris within buildings are common violations found. In other occupancies, fire alarm systems, fire suppression systems, smoke detection equipment, and multiple egress points must be reviewed per the fire code. In addition to all of these, other occupancies have hazardous materials storage, special manufacturing processes, and confined spaces which must be reviewed. As you may surmise, the time an inspector spends within a building correlates with the increased hazard analysis. For all these reasons, the inspection fees were based on occupancy. The occupancy classifications utilized come from the State of Wisconsin Building Code. (Section 302(302.1). They are also listed in the City of Racine Municipal Code, Chapter 18. The occupancy classes are as follows and include the associated fee:
||Restaurant, nightclub, theater, church, bowling alley:
||Schools K-12, colleges, daycare:
||Healthcare facilities, nursing homes, ancillary buildings:
||3 Family and inclusive to large apartment buildings:
||Business offices, single occupancy stores and places of business within a common building. (Mall)
||Small, single occupant operation industry based:
||Large manufacturing facility including office space:
||Warehouse, personal item storage:
These fees are for THE YEAR beginning in 2007 and not for a single inspection.
There is also an inspection fee for Community Based Residential Facilities. That fee is either $50.00 or $100.00 depending on the size of the facility.
8. What is the benefit to have my building inspected?
The mandated Wisconsin Statutes are met by inspecting the property types listed in Wisconsin Department of Commerce Chapter 14. Life safety issues are addressed including egress from a building when fire occurs. Issues which may cause fire or increase a fire’s progress are addressed and abated. The fire department has the valuable opportunity to walk the interior of your property. This provides a way to conduct preplan observation in the event that a fire does occur.
In addition, the Racine Common Council has pledged that 5% of these fees will be returned to the fire department for use in the fire safety and education program. This program is direct delivery in concept. The program includes visits to all schools in the City of Racine as well as presentations to civic groups and group homes.
9. How is the Bureau of Fire Prevention currently staffed?
There is a staff of six within the Bureau of Fire Prevention at this time. They are as follows:
Division Chief of Fire Prevention/Administration: Administers all functions of the bureau and many administrative tasks for the fire department. He is the chief fire code official for the City of Racine. As such, it is he who makes final rulings on behalf of the City of Racine with regard to the fire code and its application.
Captain of Fire Prevention: Direct supervision of the two inspectors and the fire safety and education officer. Conducts fire alarm and fire suppression system tests. Conducts plan review of new buildings and remodel plans. He enforces the State and local fire code within all these duties. He is the direct liaison of the fire department to general contractors coming into Racine to conduct business.
Lieutenant Inspector (2): There are two inspectors who split the city in half with regard to inspection duty. They oversee inspections done by fire crews as well. They have code enforcement power including the issuance of citations for noncompliance.
Public Education Officer: This officer is responsible for the delivery of all fire prevention programs in the City of Racine. This includes the aforementioned school and civic programs. It should be noted that these programs are also mandated by Wisconsin COMM 14. Sec. 14.47 (4) is referenced.
Fire Prevention Secretary: Responsible for all correspondence to and from fire prevention officers. The secretary also administers the rescue incident program and creates fire preplans from information collected by fire prevention officers. Inspection reports which are sent to the State of Wisconsin to insure City of Racine compliance with State statute are completed through this office.
In addition, the Captain and other officers of the bureau conduct fire investigations per Wisconsin State Statute.